First it was Ron Funches, and we did not speak out. Then we lost Ian Karmel, and we did not speak out (much). Now two beloved Portland comedians are hightailing it to LA (thought not before a big goodbye bash) and we’re ready to yell from the rooftops: WHY? Why do all the good comedians go? WHYYYYYYYY?
Amy Miller and Sean Jordan talked us down from the ledge.
So why are you leaving?
Amy: We have to. We’ve got to go on to a bigger scene if we’re going to get to the next level. There’s pretty much two places everybody goes, LA and New York, and we both chose LA.
Sean: It kinda happened where I hit the ceiling in Portland a little bit, and you just have certain people saying, “Come down here, I’ll help you out! It’s easier for me to help you from here. There are more opportunities.”
Is this because the likes of Ron Funches and Ian Karmel have already paved the way?
Amy: That’s part of it. We both have a lot of contacts there. I also started in the Bay Area so a lot of the comics I started with now live there. You end up gravitating to where you have more potential help, I think, because we all kind of need a word put in for us, or some people to let us open for them, things like that.
How can we keep good comics here? Is there a way to stem the tide?
Sean: There are a lot of comedians in town so it just makes sense that there’s a lot to come out of town. They’re going to grow, they’re going to move. Saying you are outgrowing the city as a scene sounds like a negative way to say it, but it’s kind of what happens. You outgrow where you’re at, so you want to go to the next place.
Amy: There are two things happening: a lot of comics have to go to expand their opportunities, but also to create opportunities for the comics that are left behind. It’s hard when there’s a senior class that never leaves to get up to the next level as a local comic, where you’re doing longer sets and you get to headline more things. It’s just the natural order—some people clear those jobs out so that other people move into them and get more skills as comedians. And you can always come back!
What have you learned from Portland audiences that you’ll take with you?
Amy: Towns like Portland and San Francisco, where I started, get a bad reputation for being overly sensitive and overly PC, and I think it’s good to have that balance. Portland audiences have taught me that I don’t have to alienate part of the room in order to get laughs. I don’t have to be mean-spirited. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing that people are sensitive to specific issues— it helps you find a way to balance. Also, Portland audiences have taught me that in smaller towns, audiences are so loyal and so supportive.
Sean: I learned, being around so many other comedians, that you have to write a lot. That’s the whole driving force behind this—writing new material. That was the biggest thing for me—write to keep up with everybody. Because everybody cranks out so much good stuff. It’s nice to try to be on par with that.
What were the highlights of your time in Portland?
Sean: The contests were always pretty fun. The very first thing I did in Portland comedically was a contest. We had to go to different venues all around the city and outside the city, and that’s how I met some of my best friends. It was a really fun, bonding experience because we were all doing the same terrible shows at the same terrible venues. You get close to people real quick when you do that.
Amy: One of the highlights for me was working with Arsenio Hall at Helium—that’s one of the nights that I’ll never forget. And every year at Bridgetown is essentially comedian summer camp. New opportunities come out of it, you meet new comics, and you just get better every year while also having the most fun.
What are you going to miss about Portland?
Sean: I like the rainy days, and I like to do a lot of outdoor stuff, so I’ll miss all the close in hikes, the falls and the trails, Forest Park. And I’ll miss all the comedians of course that I’ve grown with over the past six years. . .
Half of them are in LA already, though, and it's starting to feel like it's only a matter time before everybody else goes too. . .
Sean: Yeah, they’ll all be there. You’re right! I’m not going to miss anything!
Amy: Portland is just such a beautiful town, especially compared to LA. The trees and nature. I’ll miss how cheap everything is— food and drink—and the bridges. I love living near water, and just having a river go through the middle of downtown is so gorgeous and I take it for granted every single day.
Sean: What about the LA river, though? It’s beautiful!
Amy: A lot of great car chases happen in that river.
So you’re off to the city of great car chases, together. Wait, are you eloping?
Sean: Amy wouldn’t have me, is the thing. So that’s where we’re at with that.
Amy Miller and Sean Jordan’s Going Away Friendship and Pizza Party is at the Aladdin Theater on Sunday, March 13.